Adam had turned coming home from work into a secret race. If he was home before 5:30 he won. 5:45 was when she got home, and coming home by 5:30 gave him just enough time to have the kettle singing when she walked into the door and to be ready to shout a buoyant, “Welcome home!” over its wail. He liked the excuse to shout.
His job was lackluster and draining in its monotony, but she came home every day with an expression of bone white weariness on her face. She was mired in governmental red tape that kept her from helping the refugees that came through her door. A worthy goal he would have liked to see fulfilled if only to have the exhaustion lifted from her face with a radiant, triumphant smile. Sure he’d be glad that those people had help, but he was mostly concerned for his Chelsea.
Chelsea had taken the job with enthusiastic vigor, glad to take up her position on the front lines, to fight for the underdog, and to give those needing it their second chance, but that vigor had been slowly corroded till now he wished that she would leave the job behind. When he suggested that she do so, though, a touch of her old fire cracked the bone as she railed that she was needed, she had to do this. Who else did these people have?
And he wasn’t sure how to dissuade her.
He admired her for wanting to do the right thing, and if sometimes this didn’t feel like the right thing, then what else was there to do? It was the best thing to be done, the best of which he or she was capable.
He turned off the water and carried the kettle to the stovetop, lit the burner.
He leaned back against the counter, preparing himself. He let his eyes close and his own worries drain away. He had to be smiling when she walked through the door because she needed his smile in the same way the refugees needed hers.
Some days it was harder than others to be the man that she needed to see.
Some days he wanted to be the one greeted with a smile. He wanted to be the one to come home to her.
Some days winning the race felt like a loss.
We all of us were given just this first line on Monday and from it wrote our own fictions.